The winter is bitter and cold, but the animals toil on the windmill knowing that the humans will be thrilled if they don’t finish on time. The humans spitefully pretend that the windmill fell because the walls were too thin, not because of Snowball. The animals know better, but they decide to build three-foot-thick walls just in case. Snow stops their progress for a while and the animals struggle to feel hopeful. Squealer gives many speeches on the dignity of labor, but the animals find more inspiration in Boxer. In January, rations are reduced when they discover that the potatoes went bad. The animals don’t have much to eat and fear they’ll starve to death, but they conceal this from the outside world. Napoleon devises strategies to make it seem to Mr. Whymper that there’s lots of food.
Note that while the humans’ spite comes from the fairly impartial omniscient narrator, it’s likely more reflective of the effectiveness of Napoleon’s campaign to cast all humans as the enemy, who of course will be thrilled to see the animals fail. That the animals find so much inspiration in Boxer also speaks to the success of Napoleon’s attempt to, at least in terms of rhetoric, elevate the worker to a revered place in society. When Napoleon covers up the fact that they don’t have food, it speaks also to the way that Napoleon feels he must look big and powerful to his enemies who may take advantage of his weakness.
Near the end of January, Napoleon recognizes that he has to find grain somewhere. He spends most of time in the farmhouse guarded by the fierce dogs. When he occasionally comes out, it’s a ceremonious affair and dogs surround him. Squealer conducts the Sunday meetings. One morning, he announces that the hens will need to surrender their eggs: Napoleon entered into a contract to trade 400 eggs per week for enough grain to support them until summer. The hens are enraged, as they all plan to raise spring chicks, so they rebel. Hens lay eggs in the rafters at first, but Napoleon cuts their rations. The rebellion lasts five days, during which time nine hens die, before the hens give up. Napoleon insists that the nine hens died of disease.
Napoleon’s current living conditions begin to situate him as a tried and true totalitarian leader: the constant guard of dogs suggests that he’s somewhat paranoid that people are out to get him, while the ceremony surrounding his outings creates an even bigger cult of personality. The hens’ rebellion can be seen as a parallel to a variety of rebellions that took place in the USSR in response to Stalin’s Five Year Plans. These included rebellions by sailors and farmers, specifically those farmers who were victims of the Holodomor genocide in Ukraine (Stalin cut off their food, resulting in millions of deaths).
Rumors circulate that Snowball is hiding at Foxwood or Pinchfield, while Napoleon’s relationships with both farms improve. Animal Farm has a pile of timber that Mr. Whymper suggests selling, and both Mr. Pilkington and Mr. Frederick want to buy it. Napoleon deliberates in his decision to sell, and whenever it seems he’s close to selling to one farmer, rumors fly that Snowball is on that farmer’s farm and he changes his mind. Early in the spring, the animals discover with horror that Snowball has been sneaking onto the farm. He supposedly comes in nightly to trample eggs and steal, and the animals begin to blame everything wrong or upset on Snowball. This continues even when the animals find the key to the store-shed (which Snowball supposedly threw down a well) under a sack of meal.
In the years preceding World War II, Stalin flirted with making deals with both the Allies (Mr. Pilkington) and with Hitler (Mr. Frederick). This is symbolized in the novel by the sale of the timber, which (in theory, at least), would improve relations with whomever Napoleon chooses to sell to. Continuing to vilify Snowball continues to mean that Napoleon can essentially do whatever he wants and blame bad things on someone else. It becomes apparent that all of these bad things are staged when the animals find the key that supposedly went down a well under the sack—a sign of corruption and an attempt to manipulate the population.
Napoleon announces an investigation into Snowball’s activities. He and his dogs tour the farm, finding evidence of Snowball’s scent everywhere. This frightens everyone. One evening, Squealer calls the animals to tell them that they’ve discovered something terrible: Snowball sold himself to Mr. Frederick and Pinchfield, and he plans to lead their attack on Animal Farm. Further, Snowball was in league with Mr. Jones all along, which they know because of newly discovered documents. Squealer insists that Snowball’s attempt to destroy them all at the Battle of the Cowshed makes sense now. The animals are dumbfounded, as most of them remember that Snowball fought valiantly for them and that Mr. Jones shot Snowball.
Keep in mind that while Napoleon insists that they have documents proving Snowball’s treason, none of the other animals will be able to read and confirm those documents for themselves—Napoleon could have anything on paper and still be able to make this point, given how undereducated his subjects are. Continuing to cast doubt on Snowball’s loyalty at all gives Napoleon a way to make the animals trust him and him alone—which also has the effect of making the animals trust no one else, even those who might genuinely want to help.
Boxer questions this and shares his recollection of events, but Squealer insists he’s mistaken—they have, in Snowball’s own writing (which Boxer unfortunately cannot read) that Snowball was going to give them all away. His plot would’ve succeeded if Napoleon hadn’t leapt at Mr. Jones crying “Death to Humanity” and bit Mr. Jones’s leg. This graphic description helps the animals remember that Squealer’s recollection is the correct one, but Boxer uneasily says that he still thinks that Snowball was on their side at the Battle of the Cowshed. Firmly, Squealer insists that according to Napoleon, Snowball was in league with Mr. Jones long before the rebellion took place. This satisfies Boxer, since Napoleon said it, but Squealer gives him an ugly look as he tells the animals to keep an eye out for Snowball’s secret agents, who are all over the farm.
Squealer makes the stakes very clear here when he reminds Boxer that Boxer isn’t capable of reading Snowball’s documents. This impresses upon Boxer that he truly isn’t as intelligent as the pigs, which makes him far more willing to accept their rule and their stories as fact. Squealer is able to do this in part because he knows that despite his questioning, Boxer is unwaveringly loyal to Napoleon and the state he stands for—so insisting that Napoleon says that these are the facts is the only surefire way to convince Boxer.
Four days later, Napoleon orders the animals to assemble in the yard and emerges from the farmhouse, wearing both his first- and second-class Animal Hero medals and surrounded by the dogs. The animals cower as Napoleon whimpers. The dogs drag the four young pigs to the front and three dogs leap at Boxer. Boxer slings them aside and pins one before looking at Napoleon for what to do next. Napoleon tells Boxer to let the terrified dog go. The four pigs are the same ones that protested when Napoleon did away with the Sunday meetings, and they confess crimes without hesitation. They say that they’ve been working with Snowball and planned to help him give Animal Farm to Mr. Frederick. They also corroborate that Snowball worked with Mr. Jones. When they’re done, the dogs tear their throats out.
It’s clear from the way that Boxer handles the dogs’ attack that if he wanted to, he could oust Napoleon and the guard dogs without much trouble—but his unthinking loyalty to Napoleon means that he both doesn’t understand who the enemy is, and doesn’t know that he has the strength to do anything about this unjust treatment. In this way, Napoleon ensures that Boxer knows exactly where things stand: because Boxer doesn’t know his own strength, he doesn’t know that he can just do away with the dogs easily.
Napoleon asks who else has something to confess. Three hens confess that in a dream, Snowball told them to disobey Napoleon. A goose confesses to stealing corn and a sheep confesses that they urinated in the drinking pool on Snowball’s orders. Others confess crimes and Napoleon slaughters them all. When it’s over, the other animals slink away, unsure which is more shocking: the fact that the dead animals were in league with Snowball, or their punishment. This is the first time since Mr. Jones’s departure that there’s been bloodshed on the farm. The animals—except for the cat, who disappeared—lie down together near the windmill while Boxer paces. Boxer announces that he wouldn’t have believed that this could happen on Animal Farm, but it must’ve happened because they’re at fault. He vows to get up an hour earlier and promptly rushes to the quarry.
These confessions and executions, especially those of the four young pigs, mirror Stalin’s “show trials,” in which many people confessed to all sorts of crimes and were killed for it. Notice that the cat is gone now—once the society stopped working for her, she got out because unlike the other animals, she had the means to do so. When Boxer blames the animals—or the working class—instead of recognizing that Napoleon is turning into a bloodthirsty, power hungry tyrant, it shows how successful Napoleon has been in manipulating the situation to favor him over anyone else.
Clover and the other animals remain by the windmill. They look out over Animal Farm and remember that they own all of it. Tears fill Clover’s eyes and though she can’t formulate her thoughts, if she could, she’d think that this wasn’t the goal when they rebelled. Her idea of the future was animals free from abuse and hunger, working together, the strong protecting the weak. Instead, now nobody can speak their mind, dogs growl, and they have to watch their friends be killed for confessing to awful crimes. She doesn’t think of rebellion or disobedience, however, as she still recognizes that this is better than Mr. Jones’s return would be. She’ll accept Napoleon’s leadership, even if this wasn’t what she hoped for.
Pay attention to the narrator’s assertion that Clover cannot formulate her thoughts. This, the novel suggests, is why Clover and her fellow working class animals aren’t able to stand up to Napoleon: they’re too tired, overworked, and uneducated to be able to effectively formulate their thoughts and voice their concerns. Because of this, they can, to a degree, recognize that there’s hypocrisy and corruption at play—but if they’re not able to harness language to talk about it, it’s meaningless.
Clover begins to sing “Beasts of England” and the other animals join in and sing it mournfully. When they finish their third time through, Squealer and two dogs arrive and announce that “Beasts of England” has been abolished. Stiffly, he explains that it’s no longer necessary since the rebellion ended earlier with the execution of the traitors. The society portrayed in “Beasts of England” is now established, so the song is useless. The animals are frightened, and some consider protesting, but the sheep begin to bleat “Four legs good, two legs bad” and this ends any discussion. Minimus composes a song that begins “Animal Farm, Animal Farm, / Never through me shalt thou come to harm!” For most animals, the new song doesn’t measure up to “Beasts of England.”
Squealer (and likely Napoleon) recognize that Animal Farm is in a place right now that’s not all that different from Mr. Jones’s rule, which necessitated “Beasts of England” as a unifying song. Now, however, allowing “Beasts of England” to be sung means that there’s a chance the animals would realize that what they have now isn’t actually what’s spoken of in “Beasts of England.” In short, the song might stir them to rebellion all over again, necessitating this censorship to keep the pigs and dogs in power.